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Testing household outlets with 3 light tester

I moved into a 20 year old house and discovered 2 outlets on the same circuit didn't work (the remaining 3 outlets do work, 1 on one side of one nonworking box, the other 2 on the side of the other nonworking box). I bought a circuit tester (a Gardner Bender) and all three lights on the tester showed when I plugged it in the outlets (the red light was dimmer then the 2 orange lights). I checked the connections on the outlets and all were correctly installed (white on the silver screws and black on the brass screws and green to ground. Note: if it means anything, one box had 2 white wires, the other only 1 white). Just to be sure, I replaced both outlets but they still don't work and still show all 3 lights on the tester. Any ideas on what the problem is?

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Have you tried to determine if the problem outlets might be controlled by a wall-switch? This could be the case if separate black wires coming into the box are being used for the different outlets.

Posted on Dec 04, 2012

  • Loren Dec 04, 2012

    Thanks for responding. No they don't but the top socket of a neighbouring outlet that works has a red wire and is operated by a switch.



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Posted on Jan 02, 2017

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SOURCE: purchased a Gardner Bender 3

Here is how I would hook that up...
1- black
2- blue
3- red


Posted on Jun 06, 2011

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Outlets do not work, circuit tester says Hot/ground reverse but all connections appear correct, circuit is on an arc arrest breaker.

Move wires to different breaker with same amp rating?
Try different tester?

Test wiring box-by-box to locate the reversed connection.
Check each box for Hot and neutral:


Nov 11, 2014 | Electrical Supplies

1 Answer

No lights upstaires circuit breaker keeps tripping

Jan 2013
1) Move wire to another same-size circuit breaker to eliminate bad circuit breaker as suspect.
Do NOT increase size of breaker or it will cause fire.

2) Put hand on each appliance and outlet to see which ones are warm. Outlet should never be warm or hot. Replace outlet. Inspect wires for loose and burned connections.

3) If the breaker is good, then add up total watts being used by checking watt rating on each device. 100 watt light bulb is 100 watts. Big screen TV has a label that shows 300 to 500 watts. Computer has label. Space heater has label showing 1500 watts. Iron has a watt rating label. Take total watts and divide by 110Volts and this will give amp load. Total watts used = 2000 and then divide 2000 by 110 volts = 18.8 amps
Compare amp load with circuit breaker.
20 amp circuit breaker has 80% safe maximum, or 16 amps.
If amp load is 18.8 amps, then 20 amp breaker is starting to get hot, and weak breaker will start tripping.
If amp load is 18.8 amps, and breaker is 15 amps, then you are overloaded and breaker is feeling the heat, and tripping because of heat.
Solution is to reduce amp load.

4) If you have short circuit, that can also trip breaker.
Unplug everything and then plug things back in slowly to see which plug or appliance is causing the problem.

Jan 18, 2013 | Electrical Supplies

1 Answer

Can't get it to power up

If there is an input power fuse for your 120 volts a.c. I would remove it and check it. Make sure the cap seats correctly. If it is a new house to you please verify there is power coming out of the exact outlet you are using. Use a lamp or appliance you know works. If your "test" appliance works you may have bad amp or damaged in moving. If it, "tester"does not work you are not getting power to that outlet - check for a wall switch you may have overlooked or fuses/circuit breakers.

Jun 20, 2012 | Pioneer VSX-454 Receiver

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We have an Surveyor house trailer 3 years old, lightly used. The last time we tried to use the fridge it didn't work. Mod#DM2652 Ser#81708076. Checked the outlet that it is plugged into, it works,...

Since your unit is an AC and Gas unit, you need to find out if it works on gas in order to make a good diagnosis.

But from your description, it sounds like your DC power is not at the unit.

Jul 12, 2011 | Dometic RM2652 Refrigerator

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I can't seem to get my T5225 combo outlet to work. I connected it as directions said but only the light switch works, I tried changing it around & the outlet only works when the light switch is turned...

Electricians don't guess, they test.

Remove device.
Separate wires for testing.
Use ordinary 2-prong tester.
Tape wood sticks to tester leads to keep hands away from power.
Turn on power.

Test each wire to bare ground wire.
Tester will light up on Hot wire. This wire connects to dark-colored screw.
Hot is identified.
Now test Hot wire to each other wire in box, including white wires in back of box (exclude bare ground wire)
Tester will light up on Neutral wire. Neutral wire connects to silver screw. This will complete circuit to receptacle part of device.

The last wire goes to Load (light). This wire connects to brass-colored screw, and will complete circuit to light..

You can also take advantage of fixya phone support.
Fixya expert will walk you through the steps shown above for a price.

Dec 24, 2010 | Leviton 5225WSP Switch and Outlet

2 Answers

How many outlets will this carry?

While there is a practical limit for the number of outlets on a 15 or 20 amp general purpose lighting circuit in a _residence_, the National Electric Code (NEC) does not impose a # of outlets per circuit limit (residential ONLY).
However, some electrician's design general purpose lighting circuits in a residence using a point system. An outlet is 2 points and a light is 1 point. So, for a twenty amp circuit, (10 outlets x 2 points) = 20. Or, (5 outlets x 2 points) + (10 lights x 1 point) = 10 + 10 = 20. Or (8 outlets x 2 points) + (4 lights x 1 point) = 16 + 4 = 20. However you want to mix it up.

Now, if this is for a Commercial building, the the NEC allows no more than 180 VA (Volt Amps) per outlet. 180 VA / 120 Volts = 1.5 Amps.
20 amps / 1.5 Amps = 13.3 outlets. Drop the .3 and one determines that 13 outlets are allowed on a Commercial 20 amp circuit.

Also, if the 20 amp circuit is considered a continuous circuit (ON for more than 3 hours a day), then it can only be loaded to 80%. 80% of 20 amps = 16 amps.

Aug 07, 2010 | General Electric 20 Amp, 1 Pole Thick Type...

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